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Forest Runes, by "Nessmuk" (George Washington Sears), 1887

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    • Forest Runes, by "Nessmuk" (George Washington Sears), 1887

      The latest book that I've downloaded to my device for bedtime reading on the trail is free - because it's long out of copyright.

      Sears, George Washington 1821-1890
      Forest Runes

      New York: Forest and Stream Publishing, 1887 xv, [17-]210pp

      I. Nessmuk (pseud.)
      1. Poems

      This is a book of poetry by the author of Woodcraft, a book on what we would now call ultralight camping, published in 1884 and remaining in print ever since.

      While to some it may have a mawkish, Victorian sentimentality, it has some passages that are as true today as then:

      Do you call this trifling? I tell you, friend,
      A life in the forest is past all praise.
      Give me a dozen such months on end—
      You may take my balance of years and days.

      For brick and mortar breed filth and crime,
      And a pulse of evil that throbs and beats.
      And men are withered before their prime
      By the curse paved in with the lanes and streets.

      And lungs are poisoned, and shoulders bowed,
      In the smothering reek of mill and mine;
      And death stalks in on the struggling crowd—
      But he shuns the shadow of oak and pine.

      I think I'll thoroughly enjoy the odd verse or two from this little book while winding down in my tent at the end of a day Out There.
      I'm not lost. I know where I am. I'm right here.
    • From Woodcraft

      "I have found nearly all who have a real love of nature and out-of-door camp-life, spend a good deal of time and talk in planning future trips, or discussing the trips and pleasures gone by, but still dear to memory."

      "When the mountain streams are frozen...it is well that a few congenial spirits should, at some favorite trysting place, gather around the glowing stove and exchange yarns, opinions and experiences. Perhaps no two will exactly agree..."

      Some things never change. :)
      In life there are no limitations. Except stupidity. If you're stupid, you're screwed.

      Stephan Pastis
    • Woodcraft is indeed a timeless classic, but suffers rather more from a changed sensibility. It glorifies hunting, trapping, fishing, making your shelter from native materials - including living trees, heating your newly-built lean-to with a huge fire, and so on. Those things are all well and good in environments that can support them. Few of the stressed places in which we hike still can.

      That said, Nessmuk was surely, by the standards of his time, all about treading lightly on the Earth. He advocated a style that was considerably less damaging than the one that was commonly practiced, in which rich people would arrive at their opulent camps, ministered to by small armies of servants, guides and porters. The forest was endless, why worry about it?

      He also was a literal lone voice in the wilderness promoting lightweight backpacking. Few travelers today could match the lightweight kit that he describes in the Cruise of the Sairy Gamp.


      Nessmuk wrote:

      We, the "outers," who go to the blessed woods for rest and recreation, are prone to handicap our pleasures in the matter of overweight; guns, rods, duffle, boats, etc. We take a deal of stuff to the woods, only to wish we had left it at home, and end our trips by leaving dead loads of impedimenta in deserted camps.

      A friend of mine, also an avid trekker, who lives in Australia, discovered Sears for himself a while back. Last year, the Aussie was reading my trail journal and finding some of the narrative oddly familiar. He suddenly had a flash of recognition: I was describing the ground that Nessmuk had trodden in one of his travelogues. Somewhat awestruck, he asked me, "I suppose that it was much wilder in his day?"

      "On the contrary," I replied. "In his time, there were logging and mining operations all over the Adirondacks, and the runoff was threatening to silt up the Erie Canal. Nowadays, there's a protected area larger than Massachusetts. The old roads are grown to trees. The old camps exist only as foundations mostly covered with vegetation. I saw nobody for about twenty miles of the trail along Cold River." (Cold River is a forty-mile roadless section, about as wild as the Northeast - I include Maine in that assessment - ever gets.)
      I'm not lost. I know where I am. I'm right here.
    • AnotherKevin wrote:

      Woodcraft is indeed a timeless classic, but suffers rather more from a changed sensibility. It glorifies hunting, trapping, fishing, making your shelter from native materials - including living trees, heating your newly-built lean-to with a huge fire, and so on. Those things are all well and good in environments that can support them. Few of the stressed places in which we hike still can.
      I'm more interested in the historical perspective rather than practical application.
      In life there are no limitations. Except stupidity. If you're stupid, you're screwed.

      Stephan Pastis
    • TrafficJam wrote:

      AnotherKevin wrote:

      Woodcraft is indeed a timeless classic, but suffers rather more from a changed sensibility. It glorifies hunting, trapping, fishing, making your shelter from native materials - including living trees, heating your newly-built lean-to with a huge fire, and so on. Those things are all well and good in environments that can support them. Few of the stressed places in which we hike still can.
      I'm more interested in the historical perspective rather than practical application.
      And I like it! (to item #1)

      Bull shot! (to item #2)
      I may grow old but I'll never grow up.
    • Drybones wrote:

      TrafficJam wrote:

      AnotherKevin wrote:

      Woodcraft is indeed a timeless classic, but suffers rather more from a changed sensibility. It glorifies hunting, trapping, fishing, making your shelter from native materials - including living trees, heating your newly-built lean-to with a huge fire, and so on. Those things are all well and good in environments that can support them. Few of the stressed places in which we hike still can.
      I'm more interested in the historical perspective rather than practical application.
      And I like it! (to item #1)
      Bull shot! (to item #2)
      Note the "stressed places in which we hike." If all of the many thousands of hikers that use the A-T travelled in such nineteenth-century style, the A-T corridor would be denuded in a season.

      There are places out there that arguably will sustain such a style. Most of us don't hike in them.
      I'm not lost. I know where I am. I'm right here.